God is dead. Captain Kirk killed him.
I think it only appropriate to begin a review of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier with that statement because it aptly summarizes what I believe is the only true reason this movie was made--which, simply put, was to give Kirk the opportunity to meet and subsequently kill what could very possibly be his greatest enemy.
I have obliquely joked about James T. Kirk's god-complex in the past, but I am now going to state outright that I believe Kirk thinks he is God. Star Trek V provides overwhelming evidence to support this assertion....
Of course he wouldn't...because God doesn't die.
Of course he refused...because God doesn't make mistakes or feel emotional pain.
Of course he was skeptical...because God knows when someone isn't God.
...because he's God.
This movie was written by, among others, William Shatner who, apparently, can write as well as he can act. While watching this film, I was reminded of nothing so much as a work of fan fiction, and if taken as a work of fan fiction it is surprisingly good; however, as a professional work of art, it sorely misses the mark.
As is typical of fan fiction, this movie features conspicuous plot holes and contrivances and displays the poor grasp the writer holds on the personalities of the various characters.
First off, after doing some brief but extremely geeky research, I have determined that (a) Nimbus III must be located almost half-way between the Milky Way's heart and its outermost edge and (b) even at maximum speed it takes 26 years for a Federation style starship to cross a quadrant. By utilizing simple math skills, we can then determine that, at best, it would have taken thirteen years for Sybok to fly the hijacked Enterprise from the "Planet of Galactic Peace" to God's place of residence.
But since Star Trek is science fiction, I am willing to let that minor detail slide.
However, I am less willing to let slide the hopelessly contrived excuse that resulted in Kirk being sent to deal with the situation on Nimbus III. Even though the Enterprise was undermanned and on the verge of falling apart, Starfleet decided to send it on an important and potentially dangerous mission simply because James Tiberius Kirk was its captain. Although I am selfishly gratified because it bolsters my whole "Kirk is God" theory, I cannot keep from being appalled at the complete and total idiocy of Starfleet. Apparently, they needed Kirk to handle the mission because, although there were other ships in the sector, none of those ships had experienced commanders. I find this troubling for several reasons....
It's the freaking Neutral Zone for Kirk's sake! At the time the movie took place, both the Romulans and the Klingons were, if not outright enemies of, then at least threats to the Federation. Certain dialogue in Star Trek VI seemed to imply that a sizable part of Starfleet at that time was not devoted to scientific exploration but was in fact military in nature. Where were these people? What is Starfleet spending its budget on?
In addition to Kirk being a captain, both Spock and Scotty also held that rank, and yet all three of them were serving aboard the same ship. How could Starfleet think that was a good allocation of resources under any circumstances--much less when it was apparently strapped for good commanders?
Why didn't Starfleet just let Kirk use a different ship while he dealt with the crisis on Nimbus III?
But, then again, if Kirk really is God then what does he need with a starship?
If gigantic plot holes were the only problem this film had then I would consider myself blessed; however, as I mentioned earlier, the characterizations in this film are at best a little off the mark. Although I found the camping scenes with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy endearing, I was very much aware that these were not the men I had come to know and love (or, in the case of Kirk, "tolerate"). While McCoy was simply highly-strung and Southern to a degree he generally only is when under the influence of a mind-altering substance, Spock could almost be described as playful if not outright rambunctious. Any vestiges of normality disappeared completely with the characterization of Kirk, who, in this film, was part pestered father, part big brother, and part older, wiser friend to the less experienced, more na´ve doctor and Vulcan.
This faulty grasp of the various characters' personalities led to one of the most disturbing cinematic moments I have experienced in recent memory. I speak, of course, of Uhura's nude dance scene which was wrong for several different reason. (1) Nichelle Nichols was approaching sixty at the time this movie was filmed. (2) I got the impression that Captain Kirk was the one who concocted that particular plan. (3) Uhura's dance would have been unerotic even if it had been done by a woman in her 20s, which somehow made it that much more disturbing. (4) Captain Kirk and the rest of the men were hiding behind the sand dune almost directly beneath her while she was dancing, and that fact alone takes that entire scene to a whole new level of sick.
The image posted above is close to what Kirk would have seen. However, I estimate he would have been somewhat lower to the ground, and unlike the audience, he did not have the top of the frame to obstruct his view.
I once had a dream in which I was watching a movie with one of my friends. This movie revolved around a baby that was born so premature he was still a foetus, but even though he was only a slimy, bloody foetus he could talk and he could sing and he had dreams and aspirations just like everyone else.
As the movie neared its end, my friend hesitantly spoke. "Well, the film has a lot of emotion."
"And he's actually a good actor," I said, surprised that I could honestly make that statement. "But still..."
And here we looked at each other and stated simultaneously, "...It's a talking foetus."
I think that Star Trek V suffers from the same issue as the film in my dream--i.e. it is fundamentally flawed at a basic conceptual level. People want to watch a movie in which Captain Kirk travels to the center of the galaxy and kills God to the same degree and for much the same reason they want to see a movie about a talking, singing foetus.
In the end, because I suspect I might actually enjoy a film about a talking, singing foetus, and because Star Trek V is faster paced than Star Trek: The Motion Picture, I feel I can honestly vote The Final Frontier, if not my most "favorite", then at least my most "ironic favorite" installment in the Star Trek franchise.
However, that doesn't change the fact that I'm still trying to scrub images of a naked, dancing Uhura out of my mind.
Note: Thanks to Star Trek Dimension for the map of the Star Trek galaxy.
Copyright 2007 Jessica Menn